Ok, so this is not really about the NPR show, although Click and Clack did speak at my MIT graduation. Instead I am talking tonight at a BMW event which is about introducing their own venture activities as well as the i3 and i8 electric models and broader mobility initiatives. I am planning to talk a bit about the impact of the internet and mobile on cars.
My basic thesis is that cars fulfill at least three separate needs. First of course is on demand transportation from point A to point B, with emphasis on both the “on demand” and the exact locations. Second is fun and self expression broadly speaking, which includes making statements (Hummer versus say Prius). Third — and maybe somewhat controversial — I believe that for a lot of people the car provides the only “alone time” (during the commute).
The internet and mobile obviously have important implications for all three of these components and may result in a certain amount of unbundling. Peer to peer services are attacking the on demand transportation need. There it is better distributed dispatch as in Uber or Hailo. Distributed car rental/car sharing as in Zipcar or Getaround. Ridesharing as in Lyft, Sidecar and Ridejoy.
Google’s driver less car is an important innovation in that it could be used both to further enhance these peer networks but also because it speaks to the alone time component. On the other hand alone time in the car is under attack from our increasing connectedness which as the many driving while texting accidents sadly illustrate.
All of that suggests that the self expression component will if anything become more important in the future. And much of that will be in hobby and weekend use and less so for day-to-day transportation. The rising interest in weekend car racing among my friends may be an indication of that (or just the latest geek obsession).
I am still fiddling with what exactly I will be saying, so if there is another big trend that you think I should cover, please let me know in the comments.